Monday, May 9, 2011

Not Jesus Enough

About a month ago Rob posted a very long article presenting his take on the laws, rules, and rights of magick. I'm planning on eventually writing a detailed response, but one of the points he makes refers to the "Law of Repeatable Achievements" and includes the following example:

For instance if we assume that the resurrection of Christ were true, that would mean that it is possible for a person to resurrect themselves from the dead. The fact that Christ managed to achieve that accomplishment proves that it is achievable. Furthermore Christ’s resurrection can not be a one-time event. Well it could be if he’s the only person who ever resurrects himself, but that doesn’t have to be the case. The resurrection was not something that could only occur once at one specific time during the entire history of the universe. The resurrection is a repeatable action.

I basically agree with this as I consider Jesus an advanced mystic and magician rather than the uniquely created Son of God, meaning that his level of realization could in theory be achieved by another spiritual practitioner. The only caveat regarding the resurrection is that we don't know for sure if Jesus really rose from the dead. A number of scholars think that aspect of the Jesus story was adopted from other "dying and reborn god" myths such as those of Mithras and Dionysus.

Also, even if you believe the Gospel account is literal, it's a little fishy because the whole point of crucifixion was that it was a long, agonizing death that normally took days. But Jesus was crucified during the day on a Friday, appeared to die, and was down off the cross by sunset. It was around Passover in the spring, so that's maybe six hours. Given the lack of medical knowledge at the time, what do you think the odds are that he simply appeared to be dead and later revived? There are a number of advanced energy work techniques still practiced today in parts of India that would allow an accomplished Yogi to pull something like that off. If that's the case, Jesus never would have actually been fully dead.

Tragically, it seems that over Easter weekend a man in South Korea decided to put the Law of Repeatable Achievement to the test. His body was found by police last Thursday nailed to a cross, having failed to rise from the dead.

Police in Munkyuong said they were overwhelmed with the investigation and declined to provide further details.

But local media depicted an elaborate reconstruction of the crucifixion of Jesus, with the victim wearing a crown of thorns and dressed only in his underwear. He put nails into the cross first, then drilled holes in his hands and hung himself on the cross, reports said.

There was a wound in his side, reports said.

Police found nails, a hammer, an electric drill and pieces of wood near the body, as well as instructions on how to build a cross, and a note from the victim, reports said. The victim's family confirmed the handwriting was his, according to local media, which did not name the victim or say what was written in the note.

The body was found about 10 days after Good Friday, the day Christians believe Jesus was crucified.

South Korean reports said two smaller crosses were erected near the victim's. Biblical accounts say two thieves were crucified alongside Jesus on Golgotha.

To this day it's not unheard of in Asia, particularly in the Phillipines, for devout Christians to undergo crucifixion in order to suffer as Jesus did, though being crucified unto death does not generally happen and those who go through it do so with the expectation of survival. There is some debate over whether or not the South Korean victim suffered from some form of mental illness.

Another expert on religion and mental health said he had never heard of a person re-enacting the crucifixion of Jesus to the point of death before, but that the South Korean victim was not necessarily insane.

"It's possible that this man suffered from mental illness, but without knowing the context you struggle to know more," said Simon Dein, an editor of the journal "Mental Health, Religion & Culture."

"It's not unknown for Christians and Shia Muslims to inflict extreme pain for atonement," he said. "It is thought that pain is spiritually purifying."

"Within Christianity now, there is a very small surviving element of asceticism," he said, citing examples of self-flagellation in Calabria, Italy, at Easter.

"In the Philippines, there is still crucifixion," he added. "Someone volunteers to be nailed to a cross," but is then taken down and given medical treatment.

The South Korean incident is "the the extreme end of it," he said.

One of the problems that I see in ascetic forms of Christianity is the corruption of the faith with just-world elements. The idea that pain is somehow purifying is intensely related to these ideas, that if you endure something painful the brain naturally imbues it with meaning and significance. This is erroneous, in that pain is not conducive to genuine spiritual realization and evolution. People who undergo such ordeals may feel uplifted or elevated by the endorphins that the experience produces, but they would get pretty much the same effect from morphine or heroin.

For those of you who have never been on morphine, I was on it for several days following my gallbladder surgery the January before last and came up with some writing ideas that seemed incredibly original and significant, even moving, while I was on the drug. Then, once I was out of the hospital and looked over what I had written down I realized that most of the ideas I had "come up with" were just copied from other things I had read. On the morphine, I just didn't remember reading them probably because of the shift in my brain chemistry and took them to be original.

It seems to me that apparent spiritual realization occurring under extreme states of pain could be similar, and to my way of thinking that renders such methods largely useless for any sort of permanent spiritual evolution. Furthermore, when such practices are taken to their logical extremes they can be deadly, and death pretty much ends whatever spiritual progress you may be making - at least in your current physical incarnation.

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Pallas Renatus said...

While I'm generally inclined to agree with you about endorphin- and opiate-based "revelations" not having much spiritual value, I do wonder whether extended periods of excruciating pain might not lead one to discover an altered, "removed" state of consciousness, wherein one becomes a dispassionate observer separated from their body, thoughts, emotions, etc. Sort of an extreme crash-course in Zazen.

Willingly-induced pain of this magnitude may also have some psycho-spiritual benefits for certain people, allowing them to release long-held inner turmoils and complexes. The endorphin rush in this case completes the drama, allowing one both to feel a sense of psychic relief in the moment, and creating a memorable reward trigger. In the future, that trigger may allow the person to release similar psychic issues without the use of pain, as the brain has been trained to expect a reward from doing so.

I don't advocate these extreme routes, and I expect that many of the people who travel down this road do so for the wrong reasons, but I do find it hard to summarily dismiss something that has cropped up in so many cultures throughout history.

Ananael Qaa said...

Extended periods of pain certainly alter consciousness, so no argument there. I would think that difficulties would arise from that method, though, because even if you can get to a particular altered state in response to pain there's no guarantee that you can do on your own from a normal state of consciousness. Drugs are the same way - there are people who have genuine spiritual experiences from using entheogens, but the challenge lies in integrating that state of consciousness back into waking life without using the substance again.

About the only "complexes" that I believe people have are conditioning loops, and no researcher has ever been able to produce the sort of fast
deconditioning your example would imply, even by administering extreme pain. So I would like to see more evidence that such a thing can be done at all before I would ever try it out or recommend it to others. It is possible to decondition using painful stimuli over and over again to (partially) neutralize the loop, but Skinner found that positive reinforcement was much more effective.

I'm not trying to summarily dismiss practices like this, in that it's clear from studying history that people can and do gain realizations employing them. My point is that for most if not all people I think there's going to be a faster and less arduous way to get there.

Pallas Renatus said...

I think we're pretty much in total agreement, then :-)